Research Project Details

Project Details

Back to Research Program
Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Dimethyl Ether (BioDME)
Summary The aim of this project is to produce a diesel substitute biofuel, such as Dimethyl Ether (DME), from Australian lignocellulosic feedstock like stubble, cane bagasse, and annual and perennial grasses. The conversion of largely waste biomass to valuable biofuel will provide energy and cost effective technology for future biorefineries.

BioDME (DME produced from plant biomass) production can be achieved in a twostep process, in which the cellulosic material is first converted to synthesis gas (a mixture of mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen) by fast autothermal steam reforming reaction, also called as reactive flash volatilisation. In the second step synthesis gas is directly converted to BioDME in a single step. BioDME has a large potential as a fuel in the –
LPG blending and substitution
Diesel blending and substitution
Remote power generation, and
Acetylene substitution.
Diesel blend or substitution is most promising for the Australian rural sector because diesel is used as a primary fuel in the field machinery and transportation vehicles. BioDME can provide fuel independence, add value to the rural waste and generate revenue at the same time. There have been reports of several automakers developing engines for DME application and it is expected to be available in next few years. Currently DME is being produced from fossil fuels, such as natural gas, which has several disadvantages (see Background section). Therefore, the motivation for the Australian researchers is to develop a new technology for BioDME production based on Australian plant feedstock, which will lead to overall rural development – economic, social and environmental.
Program Bioenergy, Bioproducts and Energy
Research organisation Monash University
Objective summary The biggest challenge to produce biofuel is to reduce the cost of producing tarfree, conditioned synthesis gas. Current gasifiers are very complex and energy intensive to operate. One of the main objectives of this project is to produce pure synthesis gas in a simple shortresidencetime reactor. In the proposed process we can combine gasification, tarcleaning and watergasshift reaction in one reactor. Moreover, the direct conversion of synthesis gas to BioDME will reduce the current twostep process to single step, yet achieve higher yield. This process proceeds with methanol as an intermediate product and is thermodynamically more favourable than producing methanol alone from synthesis gas. Conversion of synthesis gas to methanol is thermodynamically restricted and therefore the yields are very low. However, if we convert methanol to BioDME in the same reactor this equilibrium constraint is freed and high yield of BioDME can be achieved. The direct BioDME production involves three main reactions in one reactor – methanol synthesis, methanol dehydration, and watergasshift reaction.

The overall reaction is 3CO + 3 H2 > CH3–O–CH3 + CO2

The overall reaction is kinetically more favourable because of the synergy between these three reactions. This results in increased BioDME productivity. The aim of this project is to develop a suitable catalyst for the reactive flash volatilisation of cellulose to synthesis gas and a separate catalyst to promote all the reactions for the BioDME synthesis. The overall process is expected to deliver BioDME in a cost effective and simpler manner for the Australian rural sector.
Project Stage Closed
Project start date Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Project completion date Friday, May 30, 2014
Journal articles from project Not Available
National priority Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries
Rural priority Advanced Technology
RIRDC goal BBE-Bioenergy, Bioproducts and Energy
Principal researcher Akshat Tanksale
Research manager Duncan Farquhar
Admin contact Halina Oswald